KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo is getting more than $12 million from the federal government aimed at improving downtown streets.

The $12.27 million will go primarily to Kalamazoo and Michigan avenues. The goal is to add traffic calming improvements and make the roads friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists.

A Tuesday release from the U.S. Department of Transportation says that the Michigan Department of Transportation laid out one-way east-west streets downtown about 60 years ago, creating a “physical barrier” between the predominantly Black Northside neighborhood and the central area. It says divides were exacerbated by the traffic that moves quickly through downtown.

As part of it application for the federal grant, city planner Christina Anderson said Kalamazoo included the history of redlining in Northside along Kalamazoo Avenue.

“We have an area where we have … neighborhoods that were treated differently over history,” Anderson explained. “We have the opportunity to rethink through the design world and to reconnect those neighborhoods as partners in the city of Kalamazoo.”

Anderson said the changes they’re making with the project will help connect surrounding neighborhoods, the central business district core and local educational institutions.

“It’s a little less tangible in terms of measuring, but (this will help bring) that feeling of belonging within a neighborhood and being able to move between them,” Anderson said.

Kalamazoo city traffic engineer Dennis Randolph says the funding does not speed up the project’s timeline, instead further securing its ability to stay on track.

“The analysis that our consultants really showed how much this project will benefit the whole community in terms of less pain and suffering, cost for crashes and things like that — enough to basically pay for the job in a few years’ time,” Randolph said.

In all, USDOT is doling out $185 million in grants to 45 projects nationwide through the Reconnecting Communities Program, which was created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

“Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the Tuesday statement from USDOT. “We are proud to announce the first grantees of our Reconnecting Communities Program, which will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries and other essentials.”

Another one of the grants is going to MDOT, which is getting $21.7 million to reconstruct a bridge deck over I-696 in Oak Park in metro Detroit.